Bikepacking in Jemez Springs, New Mexico

Bikepacking in Jemez Springs, New Mexico

Bikepacking in Jemez Springs, New Mexico

Tavis (the brains behind Morrison Outdoors) came up with the idea to challenge ourselves to a bikepacking trip with our kids. He decided it would be the perfect opportunity to team up with other outdoor brands to give away some products and inspire other parents to get outside with their little ones. We would have an awesome time getting outdoors, and we’d collect content along the way.

I’ve been friends with Tavis for some time but just recently got on board working with Morrison Outdoors, so I was enlisted to officially help out with the trip.  My oldest, Forest, has always had a good relationship with Tavis’s son, Morrison; so, we decided the four of us would make a good team to take on this challenge.

The Planning Process

We wanted to find a route in the Albuquerque / Santa Fe area that would be suitable for our self-supported bikepacking trip… with two 5-year-olds (both confident without training wheels). We scouted multiple trails trying to find something flat enough for the kids to ride that still had access to water and was open to camping. After concluding that none of the trails were flat enough for us to climb fully loaded, we decided to use the terrain to our advantage and found a 20-mile stretch of forest road that was entirely downhill.

Now the challenge was to coordinate the logistics of being shuttled to the top of this trail so we could make our leisurely 2-day descent.  We met up a few days before the trip to run through our bikes and fit the racks/bags. We did a quick run-through of our planned provisions and made sure that we weren’t forgetting anything.

The Adventure Begins

The day was here; we ate a good breakfast and grouped up to head out toward Jemez. After a few missed turns and dealing with some car sickness, we got dropped off and the rest of the gang headed to the end of our route to drop off our return vehicle (big shout out to the moms for pulling that off!). We got rolling just after 1:30 PM with patchy thunderclouds surrounding us. Tavis and I had our bikes fully loaded, each with a childless (for now) trailer in tow.

Our pint-sized adventure buddies, Morrison and Forest, were on their own bikes, and we spared them from carrying much of a load. The dirt road we were on was perfectly groomed with little washboard to be found, better than some paved roads in the area. The kids were excited to be riding and the valley was green and lush from this season’s unusual amount of rain. We quickly got caught in some light rain and decided to bust out the rain gear; we were grateful to regret that decision as the clouds soon turned back to sunshine. 

A young child on a red bike and A man standing next to a bike with a Burley trailer attached

Pit Stops and Mishaps

3 miles and hundreds of cows later, we found a fun spot to picnic that included some caves and a picturesque view of the canyon and prairie… and more cows. After refueling on cold pizza and PB&J sandwiches, we were eager to continue our journey and find a campsite. We had some fun taking pictures and got some cool drone shots. There was some vehicular traffic on the road, but everyone was really respectful when passing us.

The weather stayed overcast and everything was going perfectly as planned… that is until a combination of rough terrain and fearlessness led to Morrison crashing and hurting his wrist. As we assessed the situation, some fellow campers checked on us as they drove by which was comforting. After everyone calmed down it became apparent that Mo was a tough dude and ok to continue with the trip, although he decided to get in the trailer for the next portion, which Forest agreed was a good idea.

A photo gallery with one photo of two people in a cave and one photo of a young boy in the woods looking through a camera lense

Finding the Perfect Campsite

The beautiful scenery helped keep our mood up, and we soon merged with the stream we planned on camping alongside. Many of the developed sites were occupied as expected on a late Saturday afternoon, but we found a few different options to choose from including a beautiful spot under the Ponderosas that we all concluded was camp as soon as we saw it; we were just beyond the halfway mark too.

A man standing in front of a trail sign while on his bike that has a Burley trailer attached to it

Both kids fell asleep in their trailers and woke up with excitement and energy to play. We gathered firewood, pitched our tents, and set up camp. Sausages and Mac & Cheese were on the dinner menu, with s’mores for dessert of course. The kids continued to play, climb, and explore; which was a relief as Morrison clearly wasn’t in much pain anymore. After some evening doodles and stories bedtime came early, so we loaded up our bear canister and hung up the remaining food, then hit hay.

A photo of a young boy eating a s'more in front of a campfire and a photo or a man sleeping in a tent with a young child who is wearing a Morrison Outdoors Sleeping Bag

Day 2 – Adventures and Triumph

The morning was chilly, and I was grateful to be able to get the fire started quickly with some remaining hot coals. We made coffee and oatmeal and then some more coffee. The kids played in the river and adjacent meadow, making up games and trying to catch fish. We leisurely packed up and had another snack before hitting the road to conquer the second half of our journey.

A man pouring coffee into a mug in front of a campfire and a man securing gear onto a bike that is attached to a Burley Trailer

The descent was mellow and we slowly watched the terrain change as we got lower. As we came up to some new rock formations we met some fossil hounds who shared some of their finds and knowledge with the kids. They were quickly hunting for their own treasures and both kids ended up with multiple specimens that predated the dinosaurs! Throughout the ride, the kids would switch between riding bikes or lounging in the trailer and taking in the scenery.

A photo of a man riding a bike with a Burley trailer attached next to two young kids on bikes and a photo of two young kids looking at fossils in a rock

Ending on a High Note

We had one final pit stop near the river and snacked on our late lunch. We were surprised at how green everything was, and grateful that the rain clouds steered clear of us. We finished our ride in one of the most scenic sections of the entire route, the Gilman Tunnels. These tunnels are a big attraction, and the canyon was especially scenic with the river roaring.

As we rolled up to see our car waiting, we celebrated the successful journey and loaded up. The drive home was still full of excitement and positive energy, as the kids couldn’t wait to tell their moms and siblings about their experience. We counted it as an overall win and immediately started brainstorming for the next one. A very solid memory none of us will forget.

Two bikes with Burley trailers attached leaning against a fence and an SUV being loaded up after the trip

Lessons Learned:

Parking and Logistics

We thought it would be a good idea for everyone to initially meet at the ending spot where our car would be parked just to eliminate any confusion. However, Tavis and I drove up together which left the drivers of the other vehicle to rely on their GPS which had spotty reception throughout the drive. A couple of missed turns and a little bit later they made their way to our final destination. Considering Tavis and I both knew the exact spot we were headed, it would’ve been smart to be in separate cars.

The “crash.”

We felt pretty well prepared for small medical needs, and part of why we liked our final route was that there were fellow campers nearby. We didn’t have cell service for most of the ride, but emergency SOS functions were accessible on my phone for most of it. When Morrison crashed, we weren’t sure how badly he was injured, we had children’s Tylenol to help with some of his pain and everything needed to splint his arm if needed but obviously, it would’ve been best to prevent the crash or at least the injury if possible.

In hindsight, some pads other than just the helmets would’ve been ideal. Taking things a little slower would’ve helped too, but that is sometimes difficult to get across to a 5-year-old. Having trailers on hand for each kiddo proved to be crucial, and we knew the car wasn’t terribly far away if one of us needed to fetch it in an emergency.

Downhill = Good

We found that having a route that was almost entirely downhill was another really crucial aspect of our ride. Carrying plenty of food and gear comes with the territory when traveling with little ones. We relied on gravity working for us and can only imagine doing the uphills if we were on e-bikes. Even then I’m not sure how much the kids could do. Having to shuttle this ride was really the biggest obstacle but really made it fun.

Are You Up For a Family Bikepacking Adventure?

Are you ready to try bikepacking with your family? Or maybe you’re a seasoned bikepacker that needs to upgrade some gear. Either way, you won’t want to miss our ultimate bikepacking giveaway! Running from August 10-17, seven lucky winners will walk away with some awesome bikepacking gear, including a grand prize totaling over $3,000 in gear!

Check out this post for instructions on how to enter and to see all the epic gear included!


A photo of the author with his son on his back in a framed hiking backpack

Will is a father of 3 boys raising them in his hometown of Albuquerque, NM.  On top of full-time dad duty, he works as the Sales Manager for Morrison Outdoors and part-time for Trek Bicycle. His passions include mountain biking, snowboarding, camping, and silversmithing.